Fran Drescher is opening up about her harrowing experience being raped at gunpoint over 30 years ago — and the connection she believes it holds to her cancer battle years later.
Drescher, best known for the beloved 1993–99 sitcom The Nanny, recently sat down with for a candid interview with Australian talk show Studio 10 alongside her high school sweetheart (and now ex-husband) Peter Marc Jacobson. The two opened up about their experience as the victims of a violent home invasion in 1985, during which Drescher was tied up and raped at gunpoint.
“The whole rape experience was so surreal, because people who talk about having guns in the house and things like that — it would not have helped. It could have been used against us. There’s no time, unless you’re going to walk around with a gun pointed 24 hours a day,” said Jacobson, explaining that the couple was at home having dinner with friends when the assailants broke down the locked door.
“You try to live, you try to get through it alive,” he added. “The police said: ‘Whatever you did, you did right, because you’re alive.’ ”
It took a decade for Drescher, now 59, to open up about the harrowing incident, first writing about it in her 1996 autobiography Enter Whining.
“There were women that asked me to sign that particular chapter,” she said. “I thought if people could see where I went from that low point to where I am now, maybe it’ll help and inspire other women, and men for that matter, who have been sexually assaulted to move on — to feel your pain, and then try and pick up the pieces and put yourself back together.”
“You’ll never be the same, but whatever that is, then forge forward with that and turn your pain into purpose, which is what I always do,” she added.
The ordeal took a toll on Jacobson, leading him to seek professional help and subsequently uncover a secret he’d been hiding even from himself: that he was gay.
“I went into therapy, and it helped a lot,” he admitted.
“That was when you started to get in touch with your orientation,” said Drescher, who separated from Jacobson in 1996. “I can laugh about it now!”
A little over 10 years after the rape, Drescher was diagnosed with uterine cancer — a diagnosis that took “two years and eight doctors.”
“That, I think, is a poetic correlation, because I really didn’t deal with my pain for many, many, many years with the rape,” she told Studio 10. “So when you don’t do that … I mean, I ended up with a gynecological cancer. So it kind of ends up being very poetic in where the body decides to break down and create disease.”
“It’s been a colossal learning experience,” she added. “I’m not glad I had cancer and I don’t wish it on anyone, but I am better for it. Sometimes the best gifts come in the ugliest packages.”
Ultimately, Drescher’s cancer diagnosis led her and Jacobson to rekindle their friendship.
“I got a call from her manager and she told me Fran has cancer,” he said. “I hadn’t spoken to her since that last day — I was very angry, because I didn’t want to get divorced, she did. I wasn’t out yet.”
“He thought he was ,” said Drescher. “But he was too controlling for me … and I just felt like a bird in a gilded cage. Then in hindsight he realized that he was controlling because he was controlling himself, and I gave him his freedom to explore his true orientation. Once he was able to do that, then he became more relaxed in his life.”
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“That was one of the silver linings,” said Drescher. “There’s always silver linings to even the darkest clouds. And us becoming friends again and moving into a new relationship .”
Drescher, who went on to start an organization called Cancer Schmancer, says trying to “live joyfully” is a “daily practice” for her.
“I’m not always perfect at it,” she admitted. “But I catch myself and I look around and I try and look at even the most mundane things that I see every day with the most wide-eyed wonder of a child to recalibrate, and be grateful.”